Bristol City Council may relax rules on tenants in rent arrears

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Council tenants in arrears in Bristol could be allowed to move home after the council said it may relax its regulations on those who owe rent.

Current rules stipulate that tenants who owe the council rent money cannot move before settling the debt.

After housing benefit changes and a "spare room subsidy" were introduced in April the amount of households in arrears has risen from 1,409 to 2,333.

The council hopes freedom to move will create a better use of housing stock.

Knowle West tenant Theresa Ince said she asked for a smaller house three years ago but was still waiting for a suitable property.

She said: "I've got a three-bed house with a four-year-old. I told them, 'you give me a garden and a two-bed house' and obviously there is nothing out there."

'Forced to leave'

Jason Taylor, also from Knowle West, said his benefits had been cut by £150 a month. He has been left with two spare rooms after his children left home.

He said: "I've got to pay £150 a month in money I haven't got and after I've been living in the property for near enough 20 years.

"Now I'm forced with having to leave my home because I can't afford to pay for it anymore.

"Why should I move? What happens if my kids wanted to move back? They couldn't, could they?"

Green councillor Gus Hoyt, assistant mayor for housing said: "A lot of people have contacted us because we've set up home swappers projects.

"Essentially we've got about 300 people that are on that but a few of them can't exchange at the moment because they have arrears - and a lot of those arrears are pre-bedroom tax."

The council's cross-party working group is currently deciding how to manage the rising arrears among its tenants and hopes to produce an action plan to put before the mayor in September.

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